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17 Minutes with Olga from Amazon

Brian Jameson

Over the past 3 years I’ve spent well over $4K at Amazon. That’s a scary thought. I like the hassle free shopping, quick checkouts, product reviews, and the wide selection of merchandise all under one roof. I do about 75% of my shopping for items like books, electronics devices, vitamins/supplements, office supplies, and birthday gifts from Amazon, so no big surprise that I’m an Amazon Prime member. For 79 dollars a year we get free 2-day shipping or $3.99 an item for one day shipping.

By most estimates, I would likely be considered a ‘loyal customer.’ Generally, things run smoothly with my orders, so I never have to talk to customer service.

However, a recent problem with an order could have resulted in a very disappointing experience, but after a 17 minute phone call with Olga, the Amazon Contact Center Agent, I am more loyal than ever.


The problem stemmed from several items we purchased for my wife's cousin, Giselle, who was visiting us. She is in the Argentinean Air Force and had a week off to go to Miami from doing relief work in Haiti.

My wife and I logged on to Amazon to order some parting gifts for her. In total, there were about 8 items ordered, and due to the timing of her departure, we chose the one day shipping option. When the delivery date came, only 6 of the 8 items had arrived.

A bit disgruntled, I checked Amazon's web self service portal which showed the delayed items just leaving Tennessee. I had a very strong feeling that we wouldn't receive them before Giselle was going to leave. Just to be sure, I contacted Amazon customer service. After a 10 minute search on Amazon's site for the customer service contact info (my only customer complaint), I chose the "Call Me" option, and within 4 seconds, Olga (Amazon Customer Service Rep) was dialing my number. Here’s how it unfurled by the minute:

  • Minutes 0-3: I explained the situation. Their integration between self service and agent desktop is fantastic. While looking on the web self service portal, she was walking through my order, nearly identical to what I was viewing on my PC. Olga confirmed my missing items and asked if I would mind being place on hold while she called FedEx to troubleshoot the holdup. Are you kidding me? YES, you can call them on my behalf.
  • Minutes 3-7: On hold while Olga talks with FedEx Customer Service.
  • Minutes 7-9: Olga came back with the unfortunate news that our shipment was in fact delayed due to weather. She explained our options and she said they would happily refund the $3.99 shipping cost per item if we still wanted to accept them a day later. Unfortunately, this didn't help us since Giselle was leaving at 9 am the following day. Olga then asked if we would like her to cancel the order before it arrives. We were amazed that she was able to cancel an order mid-stream like this at no cost to us. Very impressive.
  • Minutes 9-13: On hold while Olga talks with FedEx Customer Service again.
  • Minutes13-14: Olga returns and says, "There may be a possibility that we can get you the package in time. Let me call the local FedEx office to confirm. I will be right back after I investigate further."
  • Minutes14-16: On hold while Olga talks with FedEx Customer Service again.
  • Minutes16-17: Olga comes back and confirms that the package will NOT be in our hands by 9 am. Again, she asks if we would like to cancel the order. We accept her offer; she recaps the call, provides us with next steps, and indicates when we will receive our refund.

My Takeaway: Customer Experience (Measures) Trump Traditional Metrics

17 minutes is a very long time for a simple order inquiry. This call would have most likely triggered a number of red flags for contact centers using traditional KPIs and metrics; high call handle time, number of cancelled orders, loss of revenue, and long hold times.

However in this case these metrics do not account for the customer experience result from my interaction.

As the customer, I was blown away by the experience (though I wish the customer service number was easier to find). At no point in the process did I feel like Olga was in a hurry to get to her next call. She was extremely empathic and wanted badly to help resolve my issue. During the call, she listened to my concerns, set the appropriate expectations, and made calls on my behalf. Olga leveraged the technology integration between the agent desktop and web channels to provide a solid customer experience, and she knocked it out of the park.

Looking back on my experience, it would be interesting to understand what customer measurements Amazon tracks for these types of interactions. Is it Customer Lifetime Value or perhaps hours spent with customers? Customer value/profit or repeat customer purchases?

What do you think?

"This post was syndicated with approval from author. The original post can be seen on the RiverStar Customer Experience Blog"